Million steps – day 16 – new life in an old place

Today’s walking was mainly done in a city I once knew so well.  The city I lived and worked in for twenty odd years, the city where,as a child, I spent time with Mum and Dad, a city I still think of as a home.

This time I was there with a new friend who was unfamiliar with the city and it was my great pleasure to share with her my favourite haunts.  I proudly showed off the wonderful landmarks, and enjoyed her reaction to the buildings, the history and the people all around us.

It was somewhat surprising to me to find so many changes have been made.  I knew about the regeneration of the centre, the new shops and galleries but here there were some changes I hadn’t noticed in my previous visits.  We walked in an enormous circle, almost 25,000 steps or 10 miles of pavement passed below our feet, stopping here and there we took photographs and ate good food while chatting with friends old and new.

The area that astonished me was one I once walked through often.  Below the might of a cathedral, the warehouses lining the streets had once buzzed with cargo, with workers and the noise of commerce.  This had been on my way home when I was a student I would save the bus fare and walk from college to our shared house.  Back then the city was in decline, the docks beginning to close, the warehouses were shadows of their former selves.Now, at first glance they seem much the same.  There are no broken windows any more and although many are unlit, through some windows there are clues that there maybe homes within.  From outside they mostly look neglected and unloved.

We are guided by a friend who knows this place and soon we come across a painted wooden doorway.  Entering I am amazed at what is within.  Colour hits the eye, bright walls and fake green grass surround tables and chairs in the sunshine.  Booths made from bamboo line one wall and the music lifts our spirits. We have great food, we have cocktails and we feel as if we have found another world. This is not the only surprise this afternoon for behind many of these imposing, somewhat sad structures there is a vibrancy and energy I would never have dreamt of.

Fed and watered we begin our way back towards the station and home.  As we walk the many, many steps of the day, we are drawn to sculptures and art everywhere.  The streets seem alive with colour and as we leave the warehouses and rejoin the shops there are thousands of people all around us, each living their lives in the city.  Going home, shopping, out for fun, people are everywhere and it feels good to be a part of this urban life.

Later, on the train heading back to the hills we are chatting about our day.  Neither of us noticed how far we had walked, instead we were buoyed by the sunshine and so much to see.  Tired but happy we go our separate ways home.

In the past whenever I travelled home by train I have always either been picked up at the station or hailed a taxi home.  Often the almost a mile climb up the hill from the train has been too much to ask after a day out.  Today I am much cheered as  I am able to walk it with ease. It would seem another fifteen hundred or so steps is a breeze as I walk through the town that is now my home.  Here there are also people out and about on a Saturday night, in a small town in the countryside.  I feel so lucky to have roots in two very different but beautiful places.


million steps – day fifteen – walking backwards

today I decided to vary my route. I have developed several ways to walk three miles, my early morning start to the day, some take me down long hills and back up again, others offer shortcuts and I always avoid busy roads.  Walking to the traffic noises is not on my list of favourite things to do.  Anyway, each of the routes has its good bits and bad bits, most of them I don’t even think about which direction I am taking, but let the road lead me home.

So, setting out in what looked to be the making of a fine and bright morning, I decided to do my most frequent route, but to do it back to front. I began with the circle of the field, always the last thing I do, and set off following the route.  This time I had to think about which way I was going, the natural ‘sat nav’ in my brain was finding it more difficult to direct me.  Anyway, walking streets in a different direction allowed me to notice different things.  The trees from the other side of the street looked more shady, the shadows were different.  The road that always signals half way was just the same, and still half way but the wrong way, it felt very odd.

Just on the halfway point the bright and clear morning changed.  The first couple of drops of rain were barely noticeable but those that followed were a very different story.  I switched route to cut down towards the theatre as I knew there was a large canopy that would give me some shelter.  I stayed for a few minutes until the cloud passed over, before continuing my walk.  Oh dear, not only was I going backwards I was now off route completely.  Feeling a bit damp and disconcerted, I arrived home from the ‘wrong’ direction.  It was all a bit of a muddle.

Still a healthy step count today, helped by lots of walking up and down in the shop later, means I am getting nearer my million steps.  I hope Diabetes UK makes lots of money from this challenge, it is a genius way to get people like me walking.

million steps – day 14 – two weeks in

today marks the end of the second week of my million step challenge and things are getting easier.  Another long walk today, hubby again dropped me at the edge of town and I walked back home through new streets.  I am noticing I am walking more quickly.  In the beginning my average pace was 2.4 miles an hour, I am now up to 3 miles an hour without really thinking about it.  I am also finding the hills easier to manage and seldom become breathless.

This is all important as it means as well as raising money for Diabetes UK and losing weight I am also increasing my fitness and my stamina.  In total I have been daily walking for about five weeks now, before July 1st I was practising and wandering a bit.  I was explaining to colleagues yesterday how my walking has developed.

My first walk was literally around the field in front of my house.   I know now this is about 900 steps and it took me a while to walk it. I remember feeling a bit self conscious, hoping no one would notice me.   The next day I did it again and the day after that I walked around it twice.  A couple of days of that and then  I walked down the road and then round the field and then the next day down a couple more roads before walking around the field home.  Step by step I did a little bit more each day, and now 3 miles in a hour is not difficult at all!  I am averaging about 15,000 steps a day, just under 7 miles, it is incredible.

I enjoy varying my route but every walk either begins or ends with the walk around the field.  It is very much part of my routine and it would feel all wrong if I didn’t do it each day. There is still some way to go to a million steps, I think this weeks walking should see me a quarter of the way there, well on track to complete it before the end of September.

There are so many positives about this challenge, the thinking time I have while walking, the gorgeous countryside and views I am seeing, the weight I am losing, the energy I now have, but the very best thing it that it is becoming normal. It is has simply become what I do.


million steps – day 12 – milestones

today I reached 200,000 steps.  I will say that again, today the woman who didn’t walk anywhere today reached two hundred thousand steps.  In twelve days I have walked ninety miles.  When I started practising for this crazy challenge at the beginning of June I thought it would take forever, never mind three months to complete.  Now it seems I may not need all the time given.  Not that I will stop once the millionth step has been stepped,  I am in this for the long haul, but 200,000 steps is worth celebrating.

So I celebrated by buying myself some new clothes.  Smaller sizes than before and specifically to help me, I picked up a fabulous breathable waterproof jacket, thin enough to wear when walking and snug enough to keep me dry.  I also bought a new sweatshirt top in thin but warm fabric, I am now ready for anything.


million steps – day eleven – rain and pain

at the end of day ten I was feeling a bit sore and a bit fragile.  Not sure why but my get up and go had definitely gone.  Waking to monsoon like rain, grey skies and a cold wind, did nothing for my motivation.  I decided to delay my walk and potter around the house. Worryingly I sat on Facebook and started to feel peckish.  Reminders of how life used to be, the laptop and the biscuit barrel my best friends.  It really hit me how my lifestyle has changed.

An amazing shift in our shop during the afternoon had me back on track.  The pain was subsiding as I moved rubble sacks and tons of donations, packing them carefully into boxes and storing them safely.  The sun began to peep from the clouds for the first time that day just as we were shutting up.

Home again I check my step count.  Absolutely awful, less than five thousand!!  I have usually done that many before my breakfast.  There was nothing else for it, I needed to walk.  Of course as soon as I set off the sun disappeared and the light rain increased.  I walked quickly, deciding to get as many steps done before I was completely soaked.  As I walked hood up and eyes down, avoiding puddles, I got into a rhythm.  There were very few people out and about which was good.  Evening walking invariably leads to meeting people, stopping and chatting.  I was in sight of home as the rain stopped falling.  A respectable six thousand steps added to the total for today I had met my ten thousand target.

I guess I never thought these million steps would come easy.  Mostly I enjoy travelling on foot, noticing the world.  Today was effort.  Massive effort.  I am so proud that I did it, the me of just a few months ago would have given up today, had a cake and stayed home.

million steps – day ten – finding my tribe

Today started well, despite a late night I was up and out before eight and enjoyed almost three miles of walking  I bumped into several fellow walkers and runners on the way, stopping to chat or walk alongside for part of the way.  It seems there are a lot of us out and about, I met people I never dreamt would be walkers actually out just like me doing it. Some have been inspired after illness to improve their fitness others are doing it for the mental strength they find in exercising.

Once again I feel  I have tapped into a whole world I had previously been oblivious to.  I admit in the past I have felt a little irritated with friends who went out running, perhaps I was jealous of their energy and fitness, but now it seems I have joined the tribe.  This has made me think of perception, of how we judge each other and how I may have alienated myself to a whole way of life, simply for fear of failing.

I think most people are a bit like me. I watch the London Marathon or the Great North Run on the television and although it is perfectly obvious most people taking part are not elite athletes, I have never consider it to be anything to do with me.  People like me enjoy sitting down, nice food, good wine.  We enjoy a stroll around the shops or meeting for coffee and chatting.  In the back of my head I always sort of understood that I should exercise.  I was very good at ignoring that little thought.  Exercise means effort, you need special clothes, things that probably won’t fit me.  You need to be good at doing it the walking/running/cycling or you can’t do it.  Excuses, excuses, excuses.  Some of the reasons were real enough.  I did fear failure, I did worry that people might laugh at me. I always thought I wouldn’t be able to do it.

I am now remembering the person I used to be.  Before children, before stressful jobs and difficult times.  Before I got fat and lazy.  Before I lost my confidence and my get up and go.  That person, thirty years ago was very active.  She ran around after small children, went out for long bike rides, she swam often and danced whenever and wherever she could.  I cannot remember the moment that all changed.  Somewhere between my thirties and my fifties I lost the will to move.  It feels good to be changing that now.

Walking isn’t running the marathon, it isn’t even jogging in the park, but it is what I can do, so that is what I am doing.  Yes the weather has been rubbish, my legs have been aching but I am connecting again with the me I had forgotten, and along the way I am meeting my new tribe.  We understand we don’t have to be elite athletes, but we are moving more than we are eating and energy is attracting energy.

So as I clock up almost 180,000 steps for Diabetes Uk I am looking forward to getting the old me back, I might even go out dancing!


million steps – day nine

Today was a good day.  After yesterday when I felt bored and tired and achy I decided to vary my walking and begged a lift of hubby on his way out to work.  He dropped me off at the edge of town for me to walk back.  It was a great idea.  I made my way down roads I usually only travel on in the car. The unfamiliar made for interesting walking and energised me completely.  It was early so not many people were about and as I turned off the main road into the smaller side roads the countryside was all around me.

A group of rabbits were playing alongside the school field, I stopped to watch them for a minute as they chased each other.  I couldn’t help but feel that this new world I am living in is full of surprises around every corner.  Walking puts me in the picture, not looking at it framed through a car window.  I am part of the landscape and able to connect with it in a way I have never done before.  I notice things I would never have seen and I am seeing the world in a very different way.  Leaving the rabbits to play,  I carried on along for a mile or so then started making my way back towards home.  It was a long walk, but I enjoyed every step.  I think this will become a weekly treat,  my long walk home.  When I arrived there just after 8 am I really needed my breakfast.

The day went on as Saturdays often do.  Spending time in the shop, chatting to people and sorting and packing donated goods ready to be sent off to where they are so badly needed. It was carnival day in our town today, and it was great to watch everyone heading up to the market place for fun at the fair.  We closed the shop just as the carnival parade was heading up the street,  it was full of smiling people, some were on floats, others were walking or marching with the bands. The sky was threatening rain but it stayed dry, which was great news for everyone.  Later we walked over the market place and down into the park to listen to live music and catch up with friends.

Today was a high step count, almost 20,000 which seemed very easily done.  Walking new routes, walking with friends and concentrating on having fun meant many of the steps were done unnoticed.  I am proud that my fitness levels are improving so much, I find it easy to walk and talk, even up the hills, something I could never do before.   It seems to me that I am beginning to understand that this maybe a million step challenge, but actually it is a life time change for the better.


million steps – day 8

oh dear, today has not been a good day.  I felt so tired, it was a real effort to get myself up and out of the door.   My legs were hurting too, this hasn’t happened for weeks, and yet it used to be the norm.  I managed to walk, and as I did so the pain lessened which was great. I went a different route, think I am getting bored with the same streets, and it did help to have new things to look at on the way around.

Back home after less than two miles, I was feeling hungry.  With very little fruit in the house, I really need to shop more often, I settled on cooking mushrooms, egg and a slice of bacon.  It was just what was needed. it made me wonder if I am eating enough?   I checked the scales and they are going the right way which is encouraging but I think I can increase my intake as I am using a lot of calories in walking.

Anyway the rest of the day went on as usual.  I was in our shop this afternoon, sorting and packing wonderful donations to send off to refugees.  It has crossed my mind on many a mornings walk that these poor people are walking so far and carrying all they possess, plus their babies.  I really cannot complain about a couple of miles in a morning. The fellowship and kindness shown by people to help others they will never meet is always uplifting.  I leave the shop later than planned with a happy heart.

I am disappointed with my step count today, under 14,000 for the first time in ages, but hopefully by listening to my body and keeping on keeping will ensure that all will be well. Putting one foot in front of another is not difficult, it is the carrying on that takes energy and effort. Tomorrow is another day, and I am planning a big walk on a new route that will inspire and energise me.


million steps – day 7 – on puddles

to be honest I have been feeling exhausted today.  I was out early this morning and completed my usual distance but it was a bit of a struggle.  I had a difficult moment in the park when an enormous dog was barking a lot and running around, I like big dogs as much as I like cows.  I managed to find myself a short cut through a hotel car park to avoid it, but this then meant I was off my route, from then on it was a struggle to get back in the walking zone.  For once I was very glad to be home.

I was just sorting the last of the chores when my gorgeous Granddaughter arrived to play. Waving off her lovely Mummy, we settled in to enjoy her mid morning snack.  The weather was looking a bit grey outside, but as the rain was not actually falling we set off for the park.  All the way down the hill my lovely girl is telling me about everyone she loves.  She loves her Mummy and her Daddy and her Nana, she loves her Aunty and she loves Thomas the Tank Engine, well to be more specific she loves Rosie who I think is a bus.  As ever when I am with her I see the world through her eyes.  Wagons thunder passed and she tells me ‘they are very noisy Nana’  she is not wrong.

We leave the main road behind us and wander towards the park.  We pass a building site and we stop to watch the diggers and the machinery, I am almost delighted to see one of the machines is being operated by a young woman.  This I feel is good for my Granddaughter who hopefully won’t grow up with the stereotypes of my youth.  As we are watching the builders the rain starts to fall fast.  It is that soaking fine rain that leaves you so wet without you really noticing.  We get a move on and are soon in the cafe in the park. Here is the soft play area she loves so much, and the good coffee I enjoy.

As I keep a careful watch over her playing I am touched by how she reaches out to the other children.  She smiles at everyone and is not fazed at all by new faces.  It makes me wonder when do we lose that, if we do lose it of course.  I am still the person who smiles at strangers, but I do know lots of other people don’t.   We build towers and knock them over and she shouts me from across the play area,’Nana, look at me!!’ Soon my coffee is finished and the rain has stopped.  Time to head out into the park.

Sadly the rain means the swings and slide are not usable just now, they are far too wet, but the rain has left other play opportunities.  My Granddaughter loves puddles.  She is suitably dressed in her wellies and raincoat and her infectious laughter as she runs from one puddle to another is attracting attention.  People stop to watch her, everyone is smiling, especially me.  We spend lots of time looking for and then jumping in puddles.  It occurs to me that I had forgotten the fun they can bring.

As we walk back home she is chatting away, ‘I love puddles, Nana’ she says. I am reminded that without the rain we would not have had any puddles, and surely this is as it is, always. If I wasn’t walking for Diabetes UK we would probably have used the car to go out and I probably would have gone home when the rain came down so much.  I may have missed out on the puddle jumping and a lovely morning of fun and laughter.

The step count today is less that on previous days but I have still done almost six miles, some of it making precious memories with my gorgeous girl.


million steps – day 6 – counting

when you sign up for a challenge to walk a million steps you certainly need a way of counting every step you do.  In my practice weeks, (remember the blisters?) I downloaded a pedometer app for my phone.  It was fabulous.  Counting every step, converting them to miles and telling me how many calories I have used.  Perfect I thought.  For everyday checking on your fitness this would be great, but there are, as I discovered, some difficulties in a phone app.

Firstly you have to have your phone on your person at all times or steps are missed.  I often walk in clothes with no pocket, so tucking a phone into my underwear was the only way forward.  It is quite difficult to check your step count when your phone is hidden in your undies and you are in a public place.  Secondly your phone needs to be charged.  This is not usually a problem, but the battery died on me halfway around a country walk.  When you really want every step to count this becomes a problem.  So despite it being easy to use I was seeking another method of counting steps.  Now I have a whizy wristband holding a lovely little pink counter, I love it.  Every step will count, and I can get all sorts of information on my laptop too.

It has made me think about just what I am counting, and why.  Clearly to complete the challenge I will need to prove I have actually walked a million steps, but there is so much more to count.

There is no gizmo that can record the energy I am feeling, or that can count the benefis of the freedom of movement I now have and the joy of being able to walk everywhere.  There is no app to count the fun to be had chatting and laughing when walking with friends.  The support for each other on the steep inclines and the help when coming down again counts for everything, taking care of each other we are making memories all the time. I can see my weight decreasing on the scale, but there is no way of counting how good it feels to wear jeans again.  I have found a whole new world.  When I walk to the supermarket I am bumping into old friends, stopping for a chat, patting their dog and catching up on news.  I am noticing things so much more.  Most of all I am noticing me and I am making every step count.